Friday 25th January brings us Burns Night, and if you want to indulge your ‘inner Scotsman’ you can find haggis in plentiful supply in most of our local butchers and supermarkets. Many local pubs have organised special Burns Night celebrations, complete with whisky pairings, or you can have a quiet night in, enjoying a haggis meal.
But what exactly is haggis? Contrary to popular Scots folklore, it isn’t a low-flying bird. It’s a savoury pudding, usually comprising a sheep’s stomach filled with lamb offal, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and other flavourings, then cooked. Traditionally it is served with mashed ‘neeps and tatties’ (but it must be swede, not the white turnip). It is delicious! As someone who spent much of her childhood in Scotland, I’m ashamed to admit that I actually like it with a large dollop of tomato ketchup too (those ‘haggis suppers’ from the local chippy in my teens!). And of course, haggis should be served with a ‘wee dram’ of whisky – the two pair surprisingly well. One can also buy vegetarian haggis, and Macsweens, the brand leader in supermarket haggis, says its veggie one is also suitable for vegans. So there you go! The Meat Room has a range of haggis, including slices... for anyone who doesn’t feel up to cooking a whole one or wanting to try it for the first time.
So there you go; you can still enjoy haggis if you are vegan or just doing ‘Veganuary’, but I’m sorry to say that I haven’t yet found anyone doing alcohol-free whisky, so you will have to drink something else if doing Dry January.
On the subject of drinks, not all wines are vegan or even vegetarian-friendly, due to animal products being used in the clarification and a process called ‘fining’. Nowadays many producers are using vegetarian and vegan options including bentonite clay, limestone or plant protein. Vegan wine is becoming more widely available, with many large supermarkets now stocking a good selection. I had a very nice vegan Viña Del Cura Gran Reserva Rioja from the Tesco Finest range over Christmas, which, at £11 a bottle, wasn’t cheap, but definitely worth that little bit extra. And if you are sherry fan, Tesco Finest’s Fino Sherry is also vegan. To spot a vegan wine, look for the word ‘unfiltered’ on the label, or check for the vegan symbol.